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Sad Minstrel - The Flight Of The Phoenix CD (album) cover

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX

Sad Minstrel

 

Prog Folk

3.81 | 17 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a strange and delightful one shot wonder this album turned out to be, on my "to get" list for nearly a dozen years now and I finally hunted it down (thank you Greg!). Initially, I was tempted by previous reviewers that gave this album a thumbs up as well as mentioning similarities with Silver Lining, Gian Castello and Faveravola, artists I adore and religiously continue to listen to and admire (thank you Kenneth!).

Truth is I hear all kinds of other influences besides the obvious Celtic/Folk insinuations, as presented by the delightfully accomplished opener "Mad Minstrel", where a brooding organ introduces some profound sensations, whirling melodies and effects galore. The metronomic drum machine only keeps things properly propelled, as Casanova infuses some effective guitar screeches into the mix. His singing is not world-class but his voice is definitely passionate and personal.

There are hints of early China Crisis on the second track "Canzone della Bambina ", with its charming Italian folk tinge, sung in the native language and owner of a gorgeous main melody. The scintillating whistles really provide a medieval mood, certainly near Blackmore's Night or Bededeum, but the main melody is a close relative of "Gates of Door to Door" from 1983's 'Working with Fire and Steel' (a stunning pop album BTW!) . It took me a few minutes to hunt down the comparison and its quite there! The title track has a rambling electro-alternative feel, not unlike some of the 90s synth bands (like Simple Minds or even the Danse Society) with a forward bass attack, glittering acoustic guitars and swirling synth bubbles. There are strong elements of Leonard Cohen (or even Yello's Dieter Meier) via the spoken word style on this and most tracks as well as some Gothic/alternative tinges (Bauhaus) that surely derive from Fabio Casanova's day gig as keyboardist with Malombra, at least on its first 2 heavy prog tinged with Goth albums. Harrowing chorus and doomed inspiration rules the roost.

Only "Silent Revolution" disturbs by its rather implacable theatrics, somehow just not rich enough melodically to merit any massive applause. I just choose to skip this one. Then, little hints of Irish jigs colliding with assorted modernisms that truly keep things vibrant, such as the ultra-fragile "Butterfly", with whistling flutes heading the troupe. Booming drums give it all a modern prog-rock sheen. A terrific listen. The delicious "A Friend of Mine" just enforces the delicate pleasure, a gloomy melody and a wispy delivery only contribute to the dreamy, fairy tale feel. The overall mood is somewhat more symphonic and grandiose than the baroque musings of the delightful Gian Castello (2 sensational albums, both hard to find), Fabio plays all the instruments with a predilection for acoustic guitars, mandolins, flutes and masterful programming. The occasional raspy guitar makes things slightly aggressive and sweaty, which is nothing to sneeze at (such as on "The Night of Beltaine"). "The' is closer to Donovan than Jethro Tull, birds tweeting in the background forest, whistles enchanting, choir work that all give this a merry medieval feel. A beautiful and haunting song.

"The Wood of Memories" is a 9 minute workout that shutters this fine disc, a forlorn whistle skirting amid the colossal string-driven synths, acoustic guitars weaving boldly and Casanova's sad voice plaintively emoting. The Yello feel is definitely there, albeit in a less electronic cocoon, but nevertheless highly modern, ratcheting up the angst and the despair. The slow burn outro fadeout may seem tedious to some but it's a prog album, for heaven's sake!

Glad to have this in my collection, a wholly desirable addition for any progfan.It was well worth hunting for!

4 Aerospace renewals

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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